Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Conservative American Girl Doll Experience

Have you seen this photo essay on American girls and their American Girl dolls? It is a commentary on American girl's and I think it is also one on our American consumerism. From the article:
 “I’ve noticed that girls do not really care as much about the books and stories that come with the dolls,” wrote [Ilona] Szwarc [the photographer]. “They are much more interested in clothes and accessories, so the educational message functions as a marketing tool for parents rather than as an inspiration for girls to learn.”
It is also a commentary on how when parents buy"educational" toys and don't follow through it does not really do anything for the kids, unless of course they were geeky like me.

I read all the American Girl books before I had my Molly doll. I am not really sure what got me started on the American Girls, but it probably was the library. My older sister, S, got her Samantha doll before I got my Molly doll. She asked for money for her First Communion so that she could get her doll. I got Molly for my birthday I think; it must have been my eighth birthday. My parents gathered the expected monetary gifts, I think I may have even put allowances toward it, and they made up the difference. I think it was the summer between second and third grade? I got glasses in third grade and I know I got Molly before I had glasses. I was so happy when I got glasses. I even picked out glasses to match Molly's. But rather than spend all my money accessorizing (though I spent hours looking at the catalogs longingly which was way better than the sappy website they have now), I just read the books over and over again.

I was the kid who spent all day everyday reading books. My parents begged me to go play outside, but I was content to have my nose in a book. What I loved about the American Girl books was how they really did give a look into the history of our country in an interesting way. I loved learning history through the books. My favorite books to read were always historical fiction; they still are! It is too bad that many American girls do not care about the history of our country and just want the doll and the accessories. Maybe that is the result of the fact that the American girl books are not good literature anyway.

So instead of reading the American Girl doll books, I am going to have my girl's read the classics about American children in history: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, and so on. I guess I should check out more the children's classic chapter books before my kids get to that age. The books that are still read that withstand the test of time are the ones that really will help our kids be better people. They teach our kids about virtue: friendship, perseverance, charity, obedience, patience, faith, etc. They teach our kids the importance of family and strong marriages. They teach our kids about those who came before us, and teach them how virtue, family, and friendship are essential for living the Good Life. The best thing about the classic books are that they were written by those who lived at the time they are describing. They don't fantasize about the past or put it down, but depict the author's experience of their present time which is our past. In this way we can really learn about our history.

As for the dolls, I doubt we will spend hundreds of dollars for American girl dolls for the kids. Clearly the dolls do not make the children happy, and my doll is not contributing to my happiness in anyway (except perhaps for the hours I spent with my best friend playing with our dolls as children). I will pass on my Molly doll when they are old enough to no destroy her. Or maybe I will just put her in a glass case and tell them stories about my childhood in reference to the doll.

Friday, January 18, 2013

7 Quicktakes Friday--2012: The Year of Stress and Blessings

I never did a highlights of 2012, and since I still don't have a lot of time to blog I am going to combine them with Friday Quicktakes:

Why 2012 was a stressful year:

1. Job Inteviews: A year ago at this time M and I were probably the most stressed we had ever been in our lives. He had finished his first round of interviews and was waiting for call backs for the second round. He was blessed with five on-campus interviews during February, which meant for me that he was traveling 14 of the 28 days. He had 21 flights (including connecting flights). While I was really happy he was getting interviews, when I heard about the last one (which had him gone for 3 nights and 4 full days) I called my mother-in-law for help with the kids. She was able to take the time and help me out which was awesome. All of the worrying proved to be worth it since he got offered his top choice of interviewing schools and accepted the offer.

2. Leaving the Awesome People of Buffalo: I could say that the thing I miss most about living in Buffalo was Wegmans, but that would be a lie and I do not morally agree with lying. So, I will get a little bit sentimental here and say that I really miss (we all miss) our friends from Buffalo. They accepted us foreigners from somewhere in the middle of the country to Western New York into their network of young Catholic families. I had my first babies with these people as our friends, learned about being a new wife and a new mom from them, shared my heart with them, prayed with them, and they were the best friends I could have asked for. If you are reading this, you better know I miss you!

3. Moving 980 Miles with Two Small Children While Pregnant: I have to confess being pregnant while moving had its perks (read: I did not do any of the heavy lifting), but being pregnant means lots of hormones which means lots of emotions about lots of things that do not always require emotions... Also, when you are driving the car and your husband is driving the truck (when he has never driven a UHAUL before) makes you really stressed. All sorts of awful scenarios were running through my head.

4. Spending Five Weeks Between Buffalo and St. Paul Visiting Family:  This could look like that we do not enjoy spending time with our families, which is not true. Five weeks without a home of our own is a long time, and imagine the famous "grandparent effect" (see last week) built up over five weeks. I also missed my bed. My bed spent those five weeks propped up on its side in my in-laws garage, and we are very thankful to them for storing our stuff between cities. One of the ways I relieved my stress during this time was by going to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard four times during our week in St. Louis.

5. Moving to a New City in a State I Never Had Been in Before: My first time in Minnesota was the day we drove to our house (which we are renting). After we unpacked I had to figure out where all the stores were, directions from place to place, find new doctors (which I am still doing) and all the things one does to settle into a entirely new city...

6. New Job for M: We are so thankful for his job, but new jobs are an adjustment. He is the "new guy" and the young guy also. But we are blessed that he has an awesome job in an awesome philosophy department and through it we are making some awesome friends. :)

7. Having a Third Child: I have heard again and again that the transition from two kids to three kids is the most difficult. I believe it (until we have our next I suppose). While F has been the easiest baby so far, sometimes I stop and wonder if I am missing someone. I am pretty sure that this is a sign that I am stressed as I get used to three kids and not that I am ready for another.

The sunset in Iowa that my parents witnessed on their way to St. Paul on the day F was born.

I just want to say before I go (and cook dinner) that while all of these things are stressful, they are also ways that we have been blessed this year. God has been so good to us and we are so thankful (even if we are stressed)!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Mom-skill!

Today on the way home from Trader Joe's the big girls were happily sucking on the suckers they earned by finding the bunnies hidden in the store. These suckers are great because they are all-natural with no random weird dyes in them. When G finished her sucker she asked me to throw a wipe back to her since she was sticky. I first told her I could not since she was all the way in back of the mini-van (something I really miss about not driving a sedan is that I can't reach the kids from the front seat). Then we came to a red light and I thought, "Hey, why not?"

I pulled a wipe out of the diaper bag, scrunched it down into a ball, twisted around and did a weird sideways throw and hit G (who was directly two rows behind my seat) in the shoulder. Since wipes don't bounce it stayed on her shoulder and when she figured out where it was she used it and then let L have a turn with it.

Anyone else mastered the art of throwing things to kids at red lights?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Liturgical Worship of God

I did not realize how much I really love our new parish in St. Paul of St. Agnes Church until we came home after a long vacation to see family and went again to Mass in the small daily Mass chapel. While traveling we went with our parents and siblings to the parishes that we went to when we still lived at our respective homes. There was the familiarity of the place and the way liturgy was celebrated at each church, and in a way they felt like home. But they were missing the aspects tradition in the liturgy that characterized the Church for years.

We went to the 8 AM Mass with our three children for the first time. Father processed in with the male altar servers and started the Mass. He read the readings and gave a solid homily. And then he turned his back to the people, or is it that he turned to face the tabernacle and the crucifix. He led us in prayer (in English for daily Mass) as he prayed the offertory and then the Eucharistic prayer. As L would call it, "Body of Christ", was on the altar and then he turned to offer the sign of peace and then continued on with the liturgy. The congregation all knelt at a communion rail and received on the tongue. As that morning Mass progressed I realized that good "saying the black and doing the red liturgy" really leads me to God and teaches me how to love Him. The proper worship due to God is that which has been passed down to us by Tradition, and it is in the liturgy that we love Him. I guess I have a "liturgical love language" towards God.

Today was the orchestral Mass at St. Agnes which was Antonin Dvorak's Mass in D. I got to nurse F during the Kyrie in the small Marian side chapel:

I wonder if she will retain the memory of the Kyrie and the painting of Our Lady and baby Jesus that she was gazing at when she finished nursing. It was a Latin Novus Ordo Mass (new Mass as opposed to Latin Extraordinary Form). It was beautiful, between the music with the chanted propers and orchestral Mass parts and the "dance" of the priest, deacons, and servers on the altar as they prepared for the Eucharist and then the Sacrament was there. There is something special that has been preserved at St. Agnes in its liturgies, and I am so glad that we get to be a part of it now. As I am learning proper worship of God there, I am finding that the proper liturgical worship I learn there allows me to worship God no matter what the church I am in.

P.S. Just as I was publishing this L stood up next to me and sang: "Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna in the highest! Hooray!"

Friday, January 11, 2013

Home Again: Seven Quicktakes for Jan 11, 2013

So, I am back in town as of Sunday, but have been spending my normal blogging time (naptime) with Jillian Michaels and then my shower. This is my attempt to encourage the baby weight off. Since I am now experiencing normal life with three kids these will all be takes on the children:

1. Today F had her two month check up and with weight in the 96th percentile and height in the 80th I am going to say that she is more like my side than M's. There are always big babies on my side. You should see my sister's babies. :) Her one year old weighs the same as my two year old and that is her smallest baby so far.

2. F had her first vaccines today.
When we came home from the doctor's office this plastic baby had stolen her hat and her bouncy seat with a little help from G. I hope the vaccines do not affect her sleeping because I am really enjoying waking up after five to seven hours each night to a baby who nurses right back to sleep. I don't mind nursing her 7 times between 7 pm and 11pm if that means she sleeps forever. Keep it up kiddo! L had a few long stretches at this age and then went to a waking every 3 hour schedule until she stopped night nursing at 15 months.

3. L's potty training (which we attempted to start on Tuesday) is not really happening anymore, and no she is not using the toliet. She is just still wearing diapers. Not even the threat of no candy until she goes on the toliet is inspiring her. For now we are trying to get her to want to go on the toliet and figure out how her bladder works and so on. Maybe it will happen soon. My new goal is before the baby needs the size large cloth diapers that L uses.

4. L's toddler bed arrived in the mail today. She figured how to get out of her crib this week (thanks to big sister G) and we decided it would be safer to have her in a toddler bed if this was the case. The reason we do not already have one is that we put G in a twin right away, but the bedroom they are in would be super cramped with two twins and all their toys. The plan is to get the "big girls" an Ikea bunk bed in a year when G turns FIVE?!?!??!?!

5. We call the strange moods the children experience after a road trip the "grandparent affect." This is characterized by the desire for constant attention and extreme whiney-ness when the desired attention is not available. It usually wears off on its own after a week.

6. I think L is getting her two year molars. My only evidence however is the persistent biting of her older sister. At least she is not biting the baby?

7. All three kids really like the song "Away in a Manger." F smiles at it and the other two dance. We are doing the Christmas season until Candlemas Day, which is February 2.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Wondering About Baby Jesus?

I first seriously thought about devotion to baby Jesus when I traveled to Prague with a group of friends during the semester I studied at my school's campus in Austria. The Infant of Prague can be found on a side altar in a church somewhere in the city. I was not even planning on going to Prague that weekend, but decided to join a group of friends last minute when my other plans fell through. When I found myself praying before the Infant dressed up in a shiny green vestment-like dress I was not really sure what to say or pray or why this devotion had been popular for hundreds of years.

Two years later I was living in a house in Steubenville, Ohio near my college campus with four young women who shared a devotion to baby Jesus and were in the same household (the Steubenville alternative to a sorority created to pray together in community based on a common spirituality). Their simple enthusiasm for the child Jesus taught me how I should have prayed that day in Prague. It was similar to the universal adoration shown to a newborn baby, except that it was combined with their love of God. In fact, it seemed to enhance their love of God in a way that I had never thought about.

How did the Shepherds feel before the Infant they knew to be their Savior and God? The Wise Men knew there was something special about the Infant King they came to adore. And Our Lady, Mary, must have felt such an overwhelming love for her own Son who was also her Lord and her God.

God chose to become man as a little baby, and it is awesome that we can still pray to Him as that child. The Church gives us the opportunity every Christmas, but we are not restricted to the season in our devotion to Him. What does a devotion to baby Jesus do for us as worshipers of God? Praying to the child Jesus helps us follow His call to simplicity to be like a little child. When we come and adore the divine child we open ourselves to have Wonder and to be transformed by it. Wonder is what a child has when she sees the moon in the sky during the day instead of at night, and children wonder at the snow covering the ground. Children marvel at all aspects of God’s creation from the smallest bug to the largest mountain. When we start to wonder again, especially towards God himself, we learn to wonder at all of His creation. And our wondering at God is a way of worshiping Him and it causes us to grow in our love of Him.

This Sunday is Epiphany when the three wise men came to adore the child Jesus in Bethlehem. If we join them with our hearts in traveling to wonder at the Infant King, we can grow in love of God this Christmas Season. O come, let us adore Him!

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.
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